Tag: books set in the 1960s

The Swinging Sixties: Ten Books Set in a Decade of Changing Times

I’ve been wanting to do a showcase on books set in the 1960s by other authors after writing my own novel, Out of Night. I asked an online community of authors and readers for their recommendations, and boy did they deliver! Here are ten books set in the changing times of the decade that we’ll always remember.

Story of a Country Boy by Val Portelli

A gritty saga set in 1960s London, it’s a perfect read for those that want to devour a story in one sitting.

Ridley Road by Jo Bloom

For fans of Maggie O’Farrell and Sadie Jones, amid the rise of fascism in sixties London, one woman searches for her lost love . . .
Summer, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. But the only address she has for him leads to a dead end.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Vivien convinces Barb, the owner of Oscar’s hair salon in Soho, to give her a job. There, she is swept into the colourful world of the sixties – the music and the fashions, the coffee bars and clubs.

But still, Vivien cannot forget Jack. As she continues to look for him, her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. Then one day Vivien finally spots Jack, but her joy is short-lived when she discovers his secret.

For UK readers, this book is being adapted by BBC1 as a television series, and filming started in September 2020.No air date time announced as of yet.

Not the Life Imagined by Anne Pettigrew

A darkly humorous, thought-provoking story of Scottish medical students in the sixties, a time of changing social and sexual mores. None of the teenagers starting at Glasgow University in 1967 live the life they imagine. Beth Slater is shocked at how few female medical students there are and that some people, such as Conor Towmey, think they shouldn’t be there at all. Devastated by a close friend’s suicide, Beth uncovers a revealing diary and vows to find the person responsible for her death. Struggling with the pressure of exams while supporting friends though disasters, Beth charts the students’ changing, often stormy, relationships over two decades in a contemporary backdrop of Free Love, the Ibrox Football Disaster, the emergence of HIV and DNA forensics. In time, indiscretions surface with dire consequences for some. In Not the Life Imagined, retired medic Anne Pettigrew has written a tale of ambition and prejudice laced with sharp observations, irony and powerful perceptions that provide a humorous and compelling insight into the complex dynamics of the NHS fifty years ago.

The Girls from Greenway: A nostalgia saga perfect for fans of Daisy Styles and Rosie Clark by Elizabeth Woodcraft

A dramatic and nostalgic saga of two sisters coming of age in 1960s Essex.

Angie Smith lives in Greenway, Chelmsford, with her elder sister Doreen, their struggling mother and their drunk, violent father. Bored of her job, and of her dull, ordinary boyfriend, Angie dreams of bigger and better things.

But then she meets boutique owner Gene Battini. He is older, handsome, charming – and married. She is completely swept off her feet. But little does she know that Doreen is falling for Gene, too, and that their affair will have disastrous consequences.

As things at home go from bad to worse, Angie and Doreen must struggle to fight for what they want.

Can the girls from Greenway ever achieve their dreams?

‘[A] beautifully written saga which brims with the spirit of youth and is rich in period detail.’ Lancashire Evening Post

Kanyakumari by Hazel Manuel

Written during three separate trips to India and is set in that country. It is an unusual and powerful tale of friendship, danger and loss as three women find themselves alone in India, each facing some of her deepest fears and challenges.

When close friends and seasoned travellers, Rachel and Gina, take a trip to India, Rachel expects the usual round of sight-seeing and collecting experiences, but she is not prepared for the secret that Gina is harbouring. Interwoven with this unfolding drama is the story of Sandrine, who writes letters home to her brother as she travels around India in the late 60s.

In a tense narrative that moves between two periods, we take a journey that is both sumptuous and dark. Has Rachel placed herself in danger? What is at the root of Gina s anxiety? And what is Sandrine s place in this story of three women making interior journeys as they travel?

Mrs. Murray’s Ghost by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

It’s 1967 and Mary’s family has moved into a huge Victorian mansion. She loves her gigantic new house, especially her room. But then she begins to meet the house’s other residents. Mrs. Murray was murdered in Mary’s new house. At first she tries to scare the new residents away, but there seems to be a force connecting the ghost to Mary. Even the stranded Brownies, the little people who live between the walls, feel that connection. When Mary becomes deathly ill, the Brownies and the ghost team up to try to rescue her, only to encounter a witch and her evil dragons and minions. Time is running out. They must rescue Mary from a fever-induced dream world before she is trapped there forever.

Storm Clouds Gathering by Pauline Barclay

Storm clouds are gathering, silently and slowly, too far away to worry about. Or so it seems. But ignoring what is brewing will have dire consequences for the people caught up in the maelstrom.

Shirley Burton is too busy cheating on her husband, having a laugh and looking for fun to alleviate the boredom of her childless marriage. Kathleen Mitchell is too wrapped up in running around after her beautiful family to worry about her health. Anne Simpson has two things on her mind: her forthcoming marriage to Paul Betham, who seems to want to control her, and her career, which she does not want to give up.

Can Shirley really expect to deceive her husband and get away with it? Can Kathleen hold it all together, and is Anne able to have the best of everything?

Storm Clouds Gathering is a story of human emotion, passion and heart-rending grief. Set against the backdrop of the mid-sixties, these three families will be tested to the limit as betrayal, loss and love threaten to change their lives forever.

Living in the Shadows by Judith Barrow

Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows. It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria. Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire. At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.

Her Mother’s Secret by Jane Baynham

A wonderful sixties saga from a promising new talent. Highly recommended.

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …
Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

To Brighton and Back and A Little Drop of Moonshine by Deirdre Palmer

One weekend in Brighton. And nothing will ever be the same again.

Four young Londoners – Carol-Anne, Jeanette, Terry, and Mark – head to Brighton for a weekend of seaside fun. Dancing, drinking, and a whole lot of lovin’ are high on the agenda, not necessarily in that order. It’s the Swinging Sixties, a time of freedom, so why not?

But behind the bravado lurk more insecurities than there are pebbles on Brighton beach. Each of the weekenders has a secret. Nobody is quite what they seem, especially Jeanette, whose problems run deeper than anyone could begin to imagine. When she disappears on a night out, tensions rise as her friends struggle to work out what to do.

They agree on two points: no parents, no police. Where they come from, people sort out their own problems. But can Carol-Anne, Terry and Mark really handle the situation without help, or is this too big, even for them?

A hot summer’s night when anything seems possible, no dream out of reach. Then everything changes.

As Apollo 11 hurtles into space and Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon, young Londoners Carol-Anne, Terry, and Mark join the celebrations at an all-night party in a holiday camp in Devon. But as the cheers go up for the astronauts, one of their group is missing: Carol-Anne’s teenage sister, Beverly.

When Beverly is discovered in tears back at their caravan, she has a story to tell that knocks the moonwalk into second place. But is she telling the truth?

The special night falls into chaos as loyalties are tested to the limit, with accusations hurled about like beach balls.

With Beverly becoming more of a liability by the minute, the best plan is to return to London. But once they’re back home, each of the group is forced to confront the troubles they thought they’d left behind.

A Little Drop of Moonshine is the sequel to To Brighton and Back but can equally well be enjoyed on its own.

Behind the Book: The Cover and Title Inspiration for Out of Night

Not long ago, an author friend posted about her current working title for the second book in her series, and how she was undecided about the final title. Many authors will have a working title that we let the reader know about, only to change that title when it comes time to cover creation. Others just find it later.

I had titled my fourth book “Ball of Confusion” for most of its journey as a work in progress. I had even gone through the rewrites and structural edits and had toyed with changing the title, but nothing seemed to convey the central theme of the book.

It was research that led me to it, though. Back in December I was reading Elizabeth Kim’s memoir Ten Thousand Sorrows as she is a Korean War orphan and nearly my character Suzy’s age. I wanted to hear about her experiences and challenges of growing up in America. If you haven’t read her book, I highly recommend you get it, and also invest in some hankies. I read it nearly in one sitting.

A central theme of Kim’s book was fear of abandonment, and as the daughter of divorced parents from an early age, I could relate to her so much. So when she quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Song of the Nations” as a poem that gave her peace, a lightbulb went off immediately.

As a writer and a creator, you have to trust your gut. It’s one of your most prized tools, and you must cherish. The moment I read that first phrase, I knew I had a title. Once I read the entire poem, I was bobbing my head up and down, because everything I wanted to express in this book was encapsulated into one poem.

Here is the poem in it’s entirety:

Out of
Night and alarm
Out of
Darkness and dread,
Out of old hate,
Grudge and distrust,
Sin and remorse,
Passion and blindness;
Shall come
Dawn and the birds,
Shall come
Slacking of greed,
Snapping of fear–
Love shall fold warm like a cloak
Round the shuddering earth
Till the sound of its woe cease.

After
Terrible dreams,
After
crying in sleep,
Grief beyond thought,
Twisting of hands,
Tears from shut lids
Wetting the pillow;
Shall come
Sun on the wall,
Shall come sounds from the street,
Children at play–
Bubbles too big blown, and dreams
Filled too heavy with horror
Will burst and in mist fall.

Sing then,
You who were dumb,
Shout then
Into the dark;
Are we not one?
Are not our hearts
Hot from one fire,
And in one mold cast?
Out of
Night and alarm,
Out of
Terrible dreams,
Reach me your hand,
This is the meaning of all that we
Suffered in sleep, — the white peace
Of the waking.

I discussed my thoughts with my editor and she, along with one of my beta readers, loved the new title. My old art instructor used to say, “Now you’re cooking with gas.”

From there I was able to form a clear picture of the cover. Two women clothed in contrasting black and white, representing the imagery of coming out of depression and despair into healing and affirmation. Doubt and self-loathing into confidence.

The rest was orchestration, playing on images found in 1960s fashion ads and dress pattern illustrations. My designer, the fabulous Victoria Cooper of Victoria Cooper Art, and I went back and forth on dresses and hairstyles until I had that “That’s it!” moment straight out of a Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m so pleased to reveal that inspiration with you, and to introduce Kate and Lydie’s story. I often return to themes in my series, and this one touches back on elements of books one and two in the saga. The first is that although darkness may seem impenetrable, light is always out there. The other is that no matter what your past may be, no matter what place you have come from, your future is in your hands. You have the choice and the chance to change that and become the person you want to become. It isn’t an easy path by any means. In my own life, it has sometimes been a series of one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you keep moving, even if you must crawl, you are still on that path.

Out of Night is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

Amazon: mybook.to/outofnight

Barnes and Noble, Apple and Kobo Books: https://books2read.com/u/bP9J7z

Writing community, how do you find inspration for your titles? Leave a comment and share!